Trail Youth Baseball’s 18U all-star team won’t be heading south next summer but will play in BC Minor Baseball Association’s 18U College Prep League.
“We made some good connections with the Okanagan teams and have applied and been accepted to BC Minor Baseball’s college prep league which is a pretty big deal,” said TYB president and Orioles coach, Jim Maniago. “It’s their top league and should be quite a challenge for us next year.”
The West Kootenay Orioles team, made up of Grade 10-12 players, has played in the Washington State American Legion Baseball League for more than a decade. However, the pandemic closed the Canadian-U.S. border in the spring and shut down sports for most of the summer.
The teams were allowed to practice and play intersquad games through July, yet, when a limited return to play protocol came into effect in August, the Orioles were unable to renew their rivalry with the Spokane league.
With pandemic uncertainty still prevailing, Maniago wanted to ensure the team had a place to play next season.
“We didn’t want to wait on the border and come to spring and have no league to play in if American Legion didn’t work out so we made the jump. It’s something we’ve looked at for a few years and the timing seemed to be right to apply.”
As an alternative, the Orioles set up exhibition games with a cohort of four teams and were impressive in their 20 or so exhibition games played against the Cranbrook Bandits, the South Okanagan Tigers and Okanagan A’s.
“We weren’t sure we’d be accepted as they are quite particular about who they accept, but our connections and the fact that we showed we are more than competitive weighed in our favour,” said Maniago.
In addition, the U16 version of the West Kootenay squad captured the Washington State American Legion ‘A’ baseball championship in August 2019, and, potentially, the same battery of players will take to the field for West Kootenay in the 18U BC College Prep League in 2021.
The college prep league is usually comprised of 10 teams, but will go with 12 teams in 2021, seven from the Lower Mainland, four from the Interior, and one from Nanaimo.
Depending on the state of the pandemic in the spring, the U16 and U14 teams may also apply for inclusion in the BC league.
“We will see how things play out, but our younger all-star teams could potentially join a BCM league as well and we can all play towards a provincial championship, which the kids really enjoy,” added Maniago. “We have no idea how it will play out for us but are just happy to have a league and some competitive games for our kids.”
A three-team Trail Youth Baseball season of sorts was also salvaged in August thanks to commitment from parents, sponsors, coaches and players.
“Baseball went really well in the fall,” added Maniago. “Our Grade 7-9s played a mini-league up until Thanksgiving and the weather cooperated for the most part and seemed to be pretty well received by everyone. Hopefully that will help in the spring and boost our numbers moving forward.”